Health, Personal Success

Death as a Teacher

o0ta3hn-thc-jakub-kriz.jpgFor something that affects each of us without fail, the subject of death remains taboo in our culture. Why?

2016 was rife with “surprise” celebrity deaths: Rickman, Bowie, Prince, Fisher and so many more. It’s sad to lose people we admire and love.

Yet, death can be the best teacher. It reminds us that life is, in the end, pretty short. It can clarify values pretty quickly. Six and half years ago, I was told by my doctor that I had cancer. I was fortunate – it was early stage I breast cancer – and my prognosis was very good. But I was 41 and not expecting that diagnosis at all. My life got crystal clear: Family and friends were priority. I realized that my job – teaching – was something I truly valued and I was grateful for it.

As I walked out of the hospital to go home to recover from my radical mastectomy, the air was crisp, the sun shone brightly and I noticed practically every blade of grass of the hospital lawn. I felt so alive!

Realizing that we don’t have much time gives us urgency. Don’t waste a day complaining. Don’t be negative. Live in the light of positivity and gratitude. Work towards your dreams. You might not have much time.

 

 

 

Health

Notice More

I just saw an old interview with Michael Landon. I was a HUGE fan of the Little House on the Prairie shows and I also liked Bonanza. When Landon died of cancer, the world was shocked. He announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and was dead less than three months later.

Something he said in his video keeps coming back to me. He said that knowing the end was near – with certainty – he “noticed” things more…about his loved ones and his life. I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago – although not any where as serious as Landon’s diagnosis – I was in shock and everything important in my life MAGNIFIED and irrelevant things fell to the wayside. In a way, I never felt more alive.

Since then, I’ve noticed things a little less again. I’ve gotten comfortable and I am aware of this digression.

My hope is that people will have this “awakening” long before a diagnosis. What is really important to you? WHO is important? Notice things more. Slow down.

Live like you’re going to die.

 

 

Personal Success

What To Do in Case of a Tragedy

Chris, our neighbor across the street, and my husband were playing whiffle ball at 5pm on Memorial Day. Less than twelve hours later, Chris would shoot his wife and a stranger with his rifle while on a cocaine binge.

Through a series of clues (helicopters flying over head, freeway closing, news reports and three patrol cars in their driveway), we realized what happened. Willey wanted to knock on their door and let the three boys know we were there for them. Their mother was gone and their father was in custody. Were there any family members around for them? We didn’t know. But it felt too soon to “bother them”. A police officer stayed most of the day at their house and we took solace in that.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when a news truck came to our cul-de-sac and knocked on all of our doors for interviews, just twelve hours after the crime. And I was mystified at the lack of visitors – no friends? No family?

Should we go and check on them? No, I thought. They would not want to see anyone right now. And what would we say? I was afraid to say the wrong thing. Maybe in a week…

But this morning, we spotted the two older boys in their open garage. One just graduated from high school, the other is a few years older. We walked over and wordlessly hugged them, all four of us crying. They moved in a few months ago and I had only spoken to their mother a handful of times. Each time, she flashed a huge smile and stopped to talk in a way so few people do these days: with full presence. She spoke with a kind voice and affectionate eyes.

Willey said, “We want you to know we are here for you. If you need ANYTHING, do not hesitate to let us know. Anything.” Tearfully, they expressed their gratitude.

“Up until now, everyone who has called us or come to our door wants to know what happened. They want to know for their own sake. So it means a lot that you say that.” I did not realize that insurance companies, leasing agents, creditors and news organizations land like vultures on a house of survivors. When they need comfort and love the most, it’s the last thing they get.

In the wake of the ever increasing gun violence in our country (there was a murder-homicide on the UCLA campus today), it will be more and more important for us all to retain our humanity. Don’t be numb to it. Go over there. Hold them tight and express compassion.

 

Health, writing

A Good Day: Smeared Eyeliner

My friend Angie and I were talking about the quote, “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”

Angie: I don’t agree with that! I think I love life so much, that I don’t want to die!  I don’t want it to end!

I know that is a lot of exclamation points. But my friend Angie is very passionate. And funny. She’s a teacher too, and she works in the room next to me. This is a recipe for a lot of giggling and nonsense. We laugh so hard that tears from my laughter make my eyeliner run. Anyway..back to the quote.

Me: (pensive)

I understand the quote. I understand that if we live in the present, moment to moment, and live it well, then we do not fear death. Why would we fear the inevitable? Because we haven’t finished everything we set out to do. We don’t want regrets.  But I also understand what Angie is saying. We love our lives. We love our families, our jobs, the sun, the moon, Arizona monsoons, great movies, fine wine, kids’ laughter and funny sayings and really, really good food! Of course we’d miss that! Yet…

I think another buddhist philosophy can answer this:

“Walk through life unattached.” This sounds cold and boring, but it doesn’t mean to lack joy. It means, don’t be attached. Don’t hope and hope and get disappointed. Work for what you want and then…let go.

 

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We’re too attached. We ought to enjoy the moment and let it go.

I’m not good at this. Yet.